Review and Thoughts
Name: Us and Them
Director/writer: Rene Liu
Release date: April 2018
Number of episodes: 1 (Movie)
Genre: Romance, Life
Based on Manga: Yes, short story, Home for Chinese New Year
This film is a melancholy masterpiece.
“What needs to be said, don’t say it
If you get it, that’s enough.
There’s really a certain sorrow
The tears won’t drop
Just watch it go
My greatest regret,
is that your regret
is about me…”
The song with these lyrics plays in the final moments of the movie. They are both heartfelt and heartbreaking. As Jian Qing finally understands what went wrong, the part he played, and there is no going back.
In a nutshell, “Us and them” is follows the story of a couple who meet in their early twenties (them), share a deep relationship, and break up with unfinished business. The story in black and white follows the current them as older adults (“us”).
If this story connects with you and you’ll know it does, if the world stops for those two hours. There is immediate re-watch value, if only to further understand the story. Their story is drenched in subtle symbolism: black and white vs color, a flower in the window sill, to name a few.
The dialogue is rich, profound, and not a word is wasted. Almost half the movie’s dialogue is quotable and worth writing down. I’d often re-wind certain parts to listen and soak in the scene. For example:
“Xiao Xiao, I really don’t understand you”
“You never did”
“You never did”
The tone of her voice and expression carries the weight off her past with him. The poignant camera angles, particularly when it sliced a scene. For example Jian Qing’s misery after the breakup, it shows him, laying on the bed, switches to him smoking, switched to him throwing things, switches to him tidying up. Then finally opens the window, looks at the plants and see’s the benefits of their separation and pours into his work.
Him not getting in the train and accepting the breakup… His naive irresolute attitude caused irreparable damage. Presuming they are still pseudo together, and that she’d be there for them to live in a house he bought.
Speaking of buying a house – he is fixated on this. When they met she mentioned how important it is for her to be with someone who owned a house. This early on become ingrained in him, that being with her, is synonymous with owning a house. This eventually becomes his issue, rather than her criteria.
One Year, while driving back to Beijing, they argue as he again says that he’ll buy them a house. She says that’s she wants and he shouldn’t build his life on achieving her dreams, he needs to find his own. He just can’t comprehend what she is saying. Strangely, he actually spends most of his adult life, living out what she wanted. Did he ever find his own dream?
At the start of the movie, after a few situations, they become a couple and totally besotted with each other: blissful despite their poverty (their living situation is deplorable). Things eventually go downhill. Xiao Xiao discovers her bottom line, her dignity. It’s with this insight she become resolute, able to break-up with Qing, without a hardened heart – and later not swayed by his offer to live in the house he brought.
Jiang Qing (Us – current) only realizes his bottom line, after he dropped Jian Qing off, and sees her for the last time. On a side note: I do wonder if he will look for her again, or drive by her house after the fact? Does he love his current wife? His current life? He is the one that moved on (or did he?), while Xiao Xiao did not and stayed true to the lifestyle she wanted as a young woman.
In the last quarter, the current them (us) have a heartfelt conversation in the car. It’s incredibly acting, tears just falling down as you watch it, I must have re-watched that scenes five times.
The acting, particularly by Jing Bo Ran, is moving, uninhibited, and a pleasure to watch. The actors tone of voices add another remarkable texture to the film.
There really are a million things to say and things to explore, almost every scene can be dissected and discussed, but I’ll leave it here for now.
After watching it for the third time I noticed that in the end, her life turn to color and she smiles (with a few tears). While Qing world still is in back and white, he sheds few tears, and not of joy. (The scene of them yelling from a balcony is a scene from when they are together, that color moment doesn’t count as an ending.) In his letter to his dad (at the end of the credits, he says “we are all fine” and also says so too Xiao Xiao: but I don’t think his definition of fine means happy, but rather able to accept his current life. Because his epiphany came too late, there will be a lingering regret that is ever-present.
After more pondering, another place it all went unnecessary wrong, is when Xiao Xiao turned down Qing’s sincere request to give him another chance. Right before they meet he sincerely apologizes through the game and during the interview on TV. How could her heart not soften towards him? Yes, he misunderstands her, but is that enough to throw in the towel and cut all ties? There are other options, for example, staying with him and intentionally have honest conversations with to clarify that she loves him with or without wealth – eventually, the penny would drop. She loves him with all her heart and he loves her with all of his. Things didn’t have to end that way. Alternatively, they could date, while living separately – she doesn’t need to immediately move in. At the minimum contact him a few months later to try again, try to talk it out.
Who are the main characters? Who plays them?
Jing Qing played by Jing Bo Ran
Xiao Xiao played by Zhou Dong Yu
Jian Qing’s father played by Tian Zhuang Zhuang
Theme: Too many to pick from.
What’s it good for? To be moved, impressed, and left pondering the film for days.
*believe the song is sung by Eason Chan